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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

26 NOV 2010

LOCAL AUTHORITY/ CONTACT: Bryan v Secretary of State for Justice [2010] EWHC 2507 (Admin)

(Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court); Ryder J; 24 August 2010)

The father was in prison for committing sexual offences against two 7 year old girls. The prison assessed that contact between father and his children (12 year old daughter, 6 year old step-child and 4 year old son) should be limited to written correspondence and telephone contact on the basis that visits would be a risk to the children. The local authority had recommended allowing the inclusion of visits, but with no unsupervised contact at any time, noting that both mothers were in favour of this.

The father sought judicial review. The same statutory guidance was available to both prison governors and local authorities. The judge interpreted the guidance as follows: the governor must request an assessment in the form of a written report from children's services, which must be in accordance with Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.  An initial assessment would usually suffice, but it must include an assessment of the child's needs, wishes and feelings.

Decision quashed. There had been no assessment in respect of any of the children considering the risk in the context of the conditions in the prison. A governor who obtained a response that did not consider the context could not simply rely upon it, but had an independent duty to assess the risk to the child concerned.

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